The West

I started watching Ken Burns’s PBS series, “The West”. Rey and I watched the first episode last night and I watched the second episode this afternoon. I’m a big Ken Burns fan, so I don’t understand how I could have missed this series. If you’ve seen one Ken Burns’s documentary, then you are familiar with his combination of historical images with modern-day photography. The modern live action helps bring to life the grainy black and white stills from the past. Burns also combines celebrity voiceovers, reading historical letters and text, with talking head interviews of subject matter experts. One such expert is Scott Momaday, an author and Kiowa. He tells the most marvelous story about the creation of Devils Tower that I’ve paraphrased below. It was featured in the segment, before the white man arrived, back in the time when dogs could talk.

A boy was playing with his seven sisters. Pretending to be a bear, he was chasing them. Miraculously, he was transformed into a Grizzly Bear. His sisters ran screaming from him. They ran by a tree stump that called out to the girls, “Climb on me and I will save you.” They did, and as the bear approached, it began to grow. It grew so tall that the bear could not reach them, scoring the stump’s sides, it could not climb it. The stump grew so tall that the sisters were carried into the heavens. They became the seven stars that form the Big Dipper. – Kiowa legend

Sunday has been a cold, wet and dreary day. We went out for brunch to the City Diner. The above picture was taken while we were waiting to be seated. Rey left for Tennessee from the diner. Anne knitted the afternoon away, finishing the second sock of a pair. Now she has to go back and finish the first sock. She worked it this way, because she was unsure of how much yarn she would have. She and Dave also watched the Rams lose. Dave is staying over tonight and not returning to Purdue until tomorrow.

I watched the second Ken Burns episode and then I thought that this afternoon would be perfect for making a movie. I could make my own little Ken Burns like [lite] documentary. I spent an inordinate amount of time noodling around the Library of Congress website, before I finally gave up in disgust. They have lots of great material, but almost all of it is still under copyright, and as such is not available online. Then by chance, I found Wikimedia Commons. I knew about this resource, but it didn’t immediately come to mind. I typed in a search for “Saint Louis” and was rewarded with ~2,500 entries. I’ve selected two to include with this post that I could never taken.

The first shows Saint Louis, Missouri, as viewed from the space shuttle (STS056) at night, on April, 1993. This is of course the year of the great flood and you can see some signs of it in the unusually wide dark spaces, north and south (left and right) of downtown. The flood didn’t hit full on until July, but I suspect that the water was up even in April. The second photo shows the U.S. 25th Infantry on bicycles, notice that they are all dabbing. It is captioned with, “On June 14, 1897, Lieutenant James Moss, U.S. Army, led his bicycle corps of the 25th Infantry, from Fort Missoula, Montana, up wagon trail and Indian path, to St. Louis, Missouri, arriving July 16, 1897.” After spending all afternoon researching this supposed documentary, I didn’t have time to actually make it, but you can expect that this will be a well that I shall dip into again.

Leave a Reply